Hey, Remember the Olympics?

Hosting the Olympics is a monumental undertaking that often leaves behind rusted stadiums and financial losses. So why do nations compete to do it? This episode examines the political history of the games, and the soft power that countries hope to gain by hosting them.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Jules Boykoff
    Professor of Political Science, Pacific University
  • Katharine Moon
    Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College

Show Notes

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed, but Japan is still working around the clock to preserve them. And they aren’t alone in their zeal. Despite mounting evidence that hosting the games leads to bloated budgets and white elephant infrastructure, the soft-power appeal of the Olympics lives on. In this episode, experts weigh in on the geopolitical role of the global games, and discuss whether lighting the torch on your own turf is worth the investment.


From CFR


Andrew Zimbalist on Costs of the Olympics,” James M. Lindsay, The President’s Inbox


The Economics of Hosting the Olympic Games,” James McBride


China’s Olympic Nightmare,” Elizabeth Economy, Foreign Affairs


Will South Korea's Olympic Diplomacy Last?,” Scott A. Snyder


The Mixed Record of Sports Diplomacy,” Eleanor Albert and Jonathan Grix

Read More


The Olympics are political. The IOC ban denies reality—and athletes their voice.,” Jules Boykoff, NBC


The Tokyo Olympics’ Staggering Price Tag and Where It Stands in History,” Wall Street Journal 


As Covid Cases Hit Record High in Tokyo, Can the Olympic Bubble Hold?,” New York Times


How Olympians Are Fighting to Put Athletes' Mental Health First,” TIME


Skipping the Olympics is ‘not an option’ for many advertisers,” New York Times


Olympic Protest Rules: Tweets Are Fine, Kneeling Is Not,” New York Times


The Olympics Have Always Been Political,” Atlantic 


The Solution to Beijing’s Soft-Power Deficit Is Staring It in the Face,” Foreign Policy 


Olympic athletes are banned from protesting at Tokyo Games, IOC says,” Business Insider


From unfazed to unprecedented: Inside the decision to postpone the Olympics,” Washington Post


The Coronavirus and the Postponement of the Olympics, Explained,” New York Times


The Rise and Fall of Soft Power,” Foreign Policy

Watch or Listen


Politics and the Olympics,” Guardian 


18 Times Politics Trumped Sport in Olympic Games’ History,” Global Citizen


Why Hosting The Olympics Isn’t Worth It Anymore,” Business Insider


The story behind this iconic Olympics protest,” Vox


The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed to 2021,” CNN 


Olympics Meets Politics,” New York Times    

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